A post by Ken Segall has made the rounds this week, where he describes a moment behind closed doors where Steve Jobs considered abandoning the pro market.
I hope you’re sitting down for this, but Steve Jobs did in fact once consider that very option.
This was back in the days when iMac had established itself as a global bestseller. During one of the agency’s regular meetings with Steve, he shared that he was considering killing the pro products.
His rationale was as you might expect: consumer products have an unlimited upside, while pro products are aimed at a niche market that eats up major resources.
This obviously never came to pass, but some would argue that Apple has strayed too far from what the industry considers “pro” with Final Cut Pro X and the new cylindrical Mac Pro.
Some won’t like it, but basically it’s the difference between Final Cut Pro 7 and Final Cut Pro X.
In FCP7, the controls are rich and deep. As a consequence, getting proficient with the app is a serious undertaking.
FCPX is very powerful, but less daunting and more seductive — streamlining and automating some of its advanced capabilities.
There seems to be a correlation for many where “pro” must equate to “impenetrably difficult for the non-pro.” Yes, Apple has made the basics of Final Cut Pro approachable for someone new to editing, but that doesn’t automate the process of ideas and creativity.
The real question is whether or not Apple has chosen the right path for the future of its professional products. They could have moved the feature set of FCP 7 to a modern 64 bit architecture, darkened the color scheme a bit, and called it a day. Pros would have been happy to not re-learn what they already knew, and there would be a bump in performance and better codec support. This is similar to the course taken with Premiere Pro- evolutionary but not revolutionary.
Instead, Final Cut Pro X is more than a re-write. It’s an entirely new set of concepts with a lower barrier of entry for the new or intermediate editor. This is not to say that the “pro” isn’t in Final Cut Pro anymore. It’s there, just beneath the surface, perhaps most importantly in the new attention to database driven organization. Anyone working in X who has sifted through footage marking favorites or tagging keywords will attest to the power and flexibility of the software. The timeline has an index that allows the editor to quickly find or isolate clips based on a host of criteria. Roles are an easy way to organize files for export to post audio. The list goes on.
Apple’s definition of “pro” has evolved to allow non-professionals easier access to the basics, while also giving seasoned veterans the speed and tools they need to create great work. This gives Apple two areas of growth instead of one, and it’s hard to see a downside for anyone in this equation.